Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

1 Jan

Defy**The following review is based on a NetGalley e-reader copy of the book, which I received for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Alex is the best of Prince Damian’s personal guards, but he has a secret that could be his undoing: he is really a she. Alexa was disguised as a boy after she and her brother witnessed their parents’ deaths and were carted off to the castle. Girls are sent to the breeding houses, a fate Alexa wanted to avoid at all costs. But being Prince Damian’s guard is full of its own dangers. Including getting kidnapped. The rebels and people of Blevon want Damian dead to stop this war with his native Antion. Swordplay, sorcery, and a heavy helping of romance round out the plot.

Where to start. This book presented itself with a lot of promise: a cover reminiscent of Gracelinga summary reminiscent of Alanna, and high praise from the Scholastic editor. A new book from a new debut author to sink my teeth into.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many redeeming qualities. The writing wasn’t great: clunky with weak descriptions (“extremely blue eyes” anyone?). Dialogue was far too “modern” for a sword and sorcery fantasy and told me nothing about the characters. I might as well have been sitting in a classroom filled with modern day teenagers.

World-building was nearly non-existent, leaving the reader not only disenchanted but also confused. There’s a war, but we don’t know who started it, why, or what makes it continue. We know nothing of the tactics at play or the motivation of the enemy. Apparently it’s been going on so long and so many people have died that breeding houses have had to be put in place to make more soldiers.

Let me talk about those breeding houses for a moment, because I think it shows the level of thoughtlessness that has gone into this book. I read a lot of reviews that said they needed to be taken out, this was YA for goodness’ sake. By all means, leave the breeding houses in–if they have a purpose. Don’t shove young girls in to a home where they’re going to be raped for “breeding more soldiers” if it doesn’t make sense. And it didn’t. The girls are dragged in, raped until they get pregnant, are practically starved, uncared for, etc. From what I gathered, the war had not been going on for so long that so many new soldiers were needed. Perhaps, if the war had been going on for decades upon decades, such a system would have been necessary. But then they wouldn’t be these forced brothels, would they? These women would be treated wonderfully, cared for in every way, kept well-fed and round to produce healthy sons. Likely, many of them would have seen it as their duty and have been proud to do it. And they wouldn’t have been raped by just any man. It would have been the toughest, best soldiers. There probably would have been competitions to see who deserved it most.

And I mean, just think of the turn-over! You’d have to wait at LEAST ten years before those little boys had enough control over their limbs to start becoming competent. Another five before you could really send them out and have them be worth something. You can’t just throw a bunch of 10 year olds at the enemy, can you? They’d be slaughtered, and there’s 10 years of work gone in a second.

The REAL purpose of the breeding houses appeared to be to make the King of Antion look evil. Okay. There are so many more believable ways to do that that don’t involve cliche sleazy old men being put in charge of the breeding houses. There were so many things this author could have done with this–I mean, how interesting, that the main character was fighting on behalf of a man who appeared to be in the wrong! You don’t get that every day. That’s refreshing. But the way it was handled was stereotypical, cliche, and just awful.

Don’t even get me started on the romance. I’m not a fan of romance anyway, and this was worse than Twilight. The undeveloped characters had something to do with it. I didn’t have a clear picture of any of them or their personalities, and then they start falling in love with each other in a few seconds flat. The romance was forced, plain and simple, and took up the better part of the plot.

The best I can say about this book is that it isn’t the worst I’ve ever read. But it had a lot of room for improvement. I probably wouldn’t recommend it.

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One Response to “Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson”

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  1. 2014: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 31, 2014

    […] Defy by Sara B. Larson * […]

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